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Experiences needed at heart of brand marketing

Experiences needed at heart of brand marketing
Paul Simonet, Creative Strategy Director at Imagination, underlines why brand experience is key in the wake of the latest Bellwether Report.

The continued growth of events and experiences within the marketing mix, as evidenced by the most recent IPA Bellwether Reports remains encouraging for the sector but the increasingly central role they play in successful brand marketing is even more encouraging.

The passing of the 2014 World Cup is perhaps a good time to try to understand that central role.

Experiences such as the football World Cup in Brazil matter to brands because they are moments in time where words are transformed into actions and actions are transformed indelibly into memories and memories take on the character of truth.

Let’s take three marketing sectors as examples - two conventional players, one less so in the World Cup drama.

Joe Pine, the author of the best-selling The Experience Economy speaks eloquently of brands’ ‘staging’ of experiences.

Nike and Adidas, as is typical, set the stage for their athletes to capture the essence of the moment. ’Risk Everything’, Nike urged Christiano Ronaldo. ‘All in or Nothing’, Adidas exhorted Lionel Messi.

The fact that one, Messi, was still making runs and trying shots deep into extra time in the final desperately trying to overcome the superior force that was Germany, whilst Ronaldo having seemingly risked not much in Portugal’s early exit, was probably already strutting on a Caribbean beach, will have brought truth to one brand where there is only assertion for the other. The event transforms the message into fact - ‘One nil to Adidas’.

Coca Cola, through their sponsorship in their FIFA partnership, do not so much seek to set the stage as own it. Stood in the official fan parks of FIFA all around Brazil with hundreds of thousands of fans across the tournament, you would be forgiven for thinking you were at a Coca Cola festival.

Amid the free flowing Coke Classic and the more sporting Coke Zero, the inflatable Coke hands swayed back and forth in their thousands to the sound of national anthems and terrace chants ‘Yo soy Argentino…’ (I am a son of Argentina…) bellowing from the thousands of ‘barrio boys’ on Copacabana deep into extra time in the final, as the inflatable hands beat an insistent rhythm in the air.

You believed in the moment that Coca Cola’s slogan in Brazil ‘Junte Todomundo’ (The Whole World Together) was true, partly, because they were helping it come true. Coca Cola were transforming their message into fact.

Finally we come to ITV. A broadcaster who had paid multiple millions to acquire the rights to show the World Cup to the nation, but that wasn’t enough. Their brand promise ‘Where TV lives’ requires something more - to transform the event into a living, breathing, screaming, shouting experience. So the terrestial broadcaster created a fan park in the heart of Manchester.

It’s a pity Roy’s boys didn’t quite seize the moment in the same way as these brands have, but again that sort of proves the point. Experiences have a life of their own, which for good or ill is memorable and which is why they matter so much.

So it is easy to see why marketers, not just at moments such as World Cups, are putting experiences at the heart of their brands. Because uniquely, events and experiences turn what a brand says into what a brand does, from what a brand claims to be to what it really is and in the power of that distinction lie many of the things that matter to modern branding - credibility, participation, memory and affirmation.

As Joe Pine points out (his books are well worth a read) increasingly for the most powerful brands, the experience is the marketing.

Paul Simonet is Creative Strategy Director at Imagination.

Check out the Q2 2014 IPA Bellwether Report and reaction.

Last updated 18/07/2014

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